Hilltop Diary, July 16, 2022

The past two weeks were spent in a cabin on a mountaintop near Gatlinburg, TN (first week) and then back home sorting out sundry things that needed tidying (second week). The cabin week, with its beautiful views of “smoke” in the mountaintops from the serene decking was fantastic and a nice chance to do no work, and especially great hanging out there with our friends Joseph and Susannah Pearce and their two kids.

We watched movies at night, made our own great meals, hiked, shopped and ate out a bit in G’burg and even played the old-school board game Clue. I had forgotten how fun non-electronic board games can be with a good group of people. Joseph and I recorded three of his regular podcast episodes, each one interviewing me about something different (aww, shucks), and I picked his brain over drinks about Waugh’s “great British novel,” Brideshead Revisited, which I have been reading and about which he is a published authority. Picture the old BBC show starring Jeremy Irons (very accurate to the book) but with the advantage of the most exquisite prose.

This past week back home has been a pastiche of domestic matters — our horribly messy garage is now straight and my dead desktop computer got a new motherboard. That sort of thing. We had friends over, and I made Jägerschnitzel for the first time, and Crystal made an awesome chocolate merengue pie. On the heels of that success I’ve been researching the various ways to make the crispiest fish and chips batter and will try to report here on the results in due course. I have settled on a hybrid version of various recipes using flour, rice flour, yeast, baking powder, malt vinegar, pilsner beer, vodka, and beaten egg whites. Update: a friend wrote to suggest swapping corn starch for half of the flour. Will do!

On the work front, plans began to be made for my record release party in Nashville in the fall, now that we have an official release date of October 14. My record company and I began discussing the details of their publicity campaign for the new album and also for a renewed campaign for my previous album (also their product), The Sea Knows. For both albums, they are developing some very cool animated album covers to grab attention online. The cover art morphs around – you’ll just have to see it, when it’s done and I post them here.

They sent me some various advertising choices, and looking at the composers, I’m struck by the trend among some of them to try to look like an artist oneself, in terms of dress, hair, etc. I would absolutely not criticize anyone’s appearance, if that’s how they would have dressed, anyway. I just hope they do not feel a peer pressure to look any certain way in order to be seen as an artist. At least in the long run, it is their works of art that will either sell people or not sell them, that will survive them or not, not their personal appearance. So, for fun I put together a montage of great artists who look(ed) in private life like they could just as well have sold you an insurance policy or some real estate. Yet, each had (or has) a brilliant mind and talent on the inside, so I say don’t worry about being a book judged by its cover.

Stephen Sondheim Freedom Of The City Photocall

Speaking of Sondheim, Crystal is busy learning her upcoming lead role (for October) of Cinderella in his Into the Woods. It’s an incredibly tricky part to learn musically, mostly in rapid recitative with only a few “hook” tunes, and most of it in compound meters (triplet division of the beat). Anyway, I liked the man and probably have done my spoken Sondheim impression too many times, having talked with him in New York a few times back in the day at an arts meeting we both used to attend every year.

Borg_Queen_2372Meanwhile, like the Borg (for you Star Trek fans), I absorbed into my collective consciousness the thousands of notes in the hive mentality of the magnificent Sibelius Second Symphony score.

The outdoors where we live has continued to be an oven, and we have to get out and water the gardens a lot, but I’m not mowing, lest it kill the lawn.  We have lots of deer and new spotted fawns on both the front and back lawns at various times of day.

Though deer are outside, the elephant in the room, after all of this much-needed rest and random recreation, remains my ongoing ballet project. I finally have a sketch going for a fourth piece for the ballet that I will start developing in more earnest this coming week. The latest news is that our impresario now has a conductor and an orchestra officially lined up for the premiere of the choreographed ballet. It is not for me to announce who those are or the dates, but I will hint that this conductor has conducted the orchestra of the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle in the past, so I think my music will be in good hands.

Till next time, enjoy some lazy days of summer, if you can!

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